No more announcements on Covid rules in England before Christmas, Sajid Javid says

ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener breaks down the latest Covid data as the NHS struggles with rising numbers of cases

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed there will be no further announcements on Covid restrictions in England before Christmas.

“We are not planning any further announcements this week,” he said.

“Despite the caution that we are all taking, people should enjoy their Christmases with their families and their friends – of course, remain cautious.

“We will keep the situation under review. We are learning more all the time as we have done from this new data.

“We will keep analysing that data and if we need to do anything more we will, but nothing more is going to happen before Christmas.”

The health secretary's comments come two days after Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised there would not be any further measures before the festive day, but did not specify whether any new guidance will be imposed in the weeks following December 25.

'We are not planning any further announcements this week,' Sajid Javid says

Mr Javid welcomed early findings that suggest the Omicron variant may cause less severe illness than the Delta strain but warned it could still lead to “significant” hospital admissions.

He said: “That is, of course, good, encouraging news. They are not very clear yet though by how much that risk is reduced.

“We do know with Omicron that it does spread a lot more quickly, it is a lot more infectious than Delta, so any advantage gained from reduced risk of hospitalisation needs to be set against that.

“If a much smaller percentage of people are at risk of hospitalisation, if that is a smaller percentage of a much larger number, there could still be significant hospitalisation.”

Will the new Omicron severity data change the government's approach to restrictions in England?

He said the easing of self-isolation rules from 10 days to 7 days would help the NHS, which is struggling with staff absences due to Covid.

He said: “The NHS workforce was already under pressure before Omicron came along. There is increased pressure in many workforces at the moment, especially if someone needs to isolate if they have a positive case.

“Some of the recent moves we have had, moving from 10-day to seven isolation if you take a test in the last two days, I think all of that will help.”

In Scotland, the government has ordered nightclubs to close for at least three weeks from December 27, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said before the Covid-19 Recovery Committee at Holyrood.

Hospitality businesses in Scotland can only continue to operate with social distancing and table service.

“Having engaged with the sector, we now propose to require that nightclubs should not operate as such for this three-week period,” Mr Swinney told the committee.

“While it would be open to them to operate with distancing and table service and that option will remain, we consider that closure in regulation, combined with financial support, may reduce losses and help these businesses weather what we hope would be a short period until they are able to operate normally again.”

Why is there growing opposition to Nicola Sturgeon's tougher Covid curbs? ITV News Scotland Correspondent Peter Smith reports

Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday announced new restrictions on events, which limits outdoor events to 500 people and indoor seated events to 200 people and 100 standing which will come into effect from Boxing Day.

Amid anger and frustration over the new rules, Ms Sturgeon said during First Minister's Questions: "Anything we do right now that risks increasing spread such as removing self isolation rules or weakening self isolation rules actually could be seriously counter-productive, just at the point where we do see some really good news with Omicron."